Darren Langton passed away suddenly from unknown causes at the family’s home in Dorchester, Dorset, at the age of 33 in October 2017.
Just three days after his son Harvey’s first birthday, the tragic incident meant the young boy was brought up by his mum Jessica Pillinger, who takes Harvey to visit his dad’s memorial stone every Sunday.
Not understanding what the grave means, Harvey takes his favourite toy cars to show his dad, while Jessica lays flower and tends to his memorial.
Jessica, who now lives in Bournemouth, Dorset, said:
As much as I want to say it’s a nice feeling seeing him [playing] like that, it’s actually more heartbreaking because I think of the relationship they would have had.
But that’s why I take photos, because when he’s older he’ll be able to see he was participating.
The heartbreaking footage shows the two-year-old lying on the gravestone while singing ‘bye bye daddy’ repeatedly, all with a smile on his face.
Jessica has shared the video ahead of Father’s Day on June 16 to show Harvey’s special connection with his dad, despite them spending just one year together.
Harvey’s mum believes the emotional footage shows the reality of a toddler who doesn’t understand the death of a parent, as she struggles with how to tell her son without ‘turning his world upside down’.
I think this video shows the reality for a lot of other little ones [who’ve lost a parent]. Even though they’ve lost one parent, they’ve still got another.
You can see from the video that he’s okay. He knows Daddy’s not there, but he doesn’t know he’s died. Given his age, I don’t think he understands the concept of death. He’s just used to a life of Daddy’s photos and talking about it through me.
I’ve made a decision that I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing and gradually embed it as much as I can, and I’m going to leave it to Harvey to ask me. That’s how I know he’ll be ready for it. I don’t want to be the one to turn his world upside down.
The doting mum explained how, when the time is right, she’ll sit the toddler down and be the one to tell him. ‘I don’t want it to be from anyone else,’ Jessica says.
The mother and son visit Darren’s memorial stone every Sunday and lay flowers in a ‘weekly ritual’. Although initially, Harvey wasn’t fully aware of what was happening, Jessica says he now understands they’re going to visit daddy.
When we’re turning into the road of the memorial ground, he’ll say ‘Daddy’. Harvey’s quite a shy kid, but when he’s there he’ll run down all excited shouting ‘Daddy, Daddy! Look – cars!’
When we get to the stone, he’ll then lay down and play. He’s connected it all together. Even when we’re at home, I’ll say ‘we’re going to see Daddy today. What toys would you like to take?’
He’ll help me arrange the flowers or if the stone needs cleaning, I’ll give him the sponge and pour the water over while he’s scrubbing away.
Jessica and Harvey returned home on the afternoon of October 25, 2017, to find Darren had passed away unexpectedly. With an inquest ruling his death as ‘undetermined’, Jessica says they will never know how he died.
The mum-of-one says she will spend Father’s Day with Harvey, just the two of them, as well as visiting the headstone to lay some more flowers.
With Jessica stating Darren had always wanted a son, she is now dedicating her life to making him proud, saying: ‘I use that to push forward and give Harvey the best life I possibly can’.
The loving mother hopes sharing her experience will help others starting out on their journey, describing Harvey as her ‘rock’ and stating she wouldn’t be where she is today without him.
Rest in peace, Darren.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677. If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]